Unable to defend its discriminatory agenda, the BJP has taken recourse to raw police power. BJP leader Yogi Adityanath, who is the Chief Minister of India's largest state Uttar Pradesh (population: 200 million) has shut off the internet in key areas and used the full force of the police to beat, arrest, and intimidate anyone who opposes the BJP policy. Of the 27 people killed across India over these protests, 19 were killed in Uttar Pradesh. A fact-finding team found that Yogi was running a "reign of terror" in the state against protesters.
When five women drew chalk drawings (kolam) with slogans against the discriminatory laws in Chennai (Tamil Nadu), they were arrested; when three lawyers went to the police on behalf of the women, the police arrested the lawyers. They join the thousands who have been arrested or held in preventative detention. Meanwhile, the internet has been cut off for large parts of the country. Two foreign nationals who had protested the laws, including a German student, have been deported. A fact-finding team found that the Delhi Police which is controlled by the BJP government was "unrelenting and cruel" in its behavior at Delhi's Jamia Milia Islamia University.
Vice President Naidu warned that dissent should be expressed in a democratic way. He was merely reflecting reality, since the protests have all been extraordinarily peaceful and respectful; the protesters have reclaimed the Indian flag and its Constitution and are holding fast to the view that they have the law and the public sentiment on their side.
It is the documented behavior of the BJP officials and of the police that needs to be chastised by the Indian Vice President. The violence that has taken place is the violence of the BJP's hooligans and of the police, not the violence of the dissenters (as noted by many observers, including Human Rights Watch). It has become formulaic for the BJP to accuse its opponents of being "anti-national"; now public sentiment suggests that it is the BJP which is anti-national.
In January, the trade unions and the left parties have called for a week of protests from 1 January onward, which will culminate in a general strike on 8 January. Last year's trade union strike brought 180 million people onto the streets. If the momentum of these protests remains, then this strike on 8 January will be enormous; it could weaken the BJP's political power fatally.
This article was produced by Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute.
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